ANIMAL PEOPLE FORUM A global forum in which people who care about animals can speak and be heard! Sun, 22 Apr 2018 02:56:31 +0000 en-US hourly 1 9 Tips to Shop Animal-Free Sun, 22 Apr 2018 01:47:19 +0000 Don't buy anything that has animal-based fabrics. Even a small leather pull tab or silk lining still fuels demand for cruelty. Use this guide to make sure that the clothes you find and like are also animal-free.

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When shopping for clothing, use this guide to make sure that something you find and really like is also animal-free.

Made with love to animals by Human 21
Art work by Tania Kremen
Post by Tamara Human

1. Tag

Check the description of fabrics used in a product. The most widely known animal-based materials like leather and wool are easy to recognize. But there are many other fabrics that are also non-vegan, such as moire, pongee, etc.

Check this list of vegan/non-vegan fabrics.


2. Brand label

Some brands use leather/suede to make their brand label. For example, Fjallraven jackets have a leather fox logo.




3. Patch and belt loops

Leather patches may occur on the back of jeans. Leather might also be used in a belt loop. For example, Alexander Wang uses one leather belt loop as their tag in this skirt.



4. Zipper

Occasionally, especially in outerwear, a zipper might have a pull tab made from leather.




5. Lining

Even if clothes are made from synthetic or other animal-free materials, there still might be a silk lining.

Silk is not a vegan fabric, for these reasons.



6. Sole, inner sole and inner lining of shoes

Many brands use leather and shearling for inner parts of shoes, and it might not be mentioned in the description.

For example, Joshua Sanders sandals have leather lining that is not obvious.



7. Outside part and details of shoes

Suede, leather, and shearling might be used for heel/toe parts or linings, as well as some small details such as logos.




8. Don’t hesitate to ask customer service

Ask customer service for assistance whenever you are not 100% sure that the product you’ve chosen is animal-free. This is especially important when you shop online and can’t inspect the product yourself.


9. Be against cruelty

Don’t buy anything that has animal-based fabrics. Even a small detail counts. Something tiny that you might even take off before wearing still fuels demand for cruelty. The key point is not only to avoid wearing such materials, but to avoid supporting animal cruelty with your money.



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Featured image: vegan clothes shopping. Image credit Circuito Fora do Eixo, CC BY-SA 2.0

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Birds of a Feather, a story of healing for veterans and parrots Sun, 22 Apr 2018 00:54:39 +0000 Serenity Park is a unique sanctuary where wounded warriors and wounded parrots find a path of healing together. Dr. Lorin Lindner's new book, Birds of a Feather, is a love story between veterans and the birds they nurse back to health.

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Animal lover though I was, I was definitely not looking for a pet. I was busy training to be a psychologist. Then came Sammy – a mischievous and extremely loud bright pink Moluccan cockatoo who had been abandoned. It was love at first sight. But Sammy needed a companion. Enter Mango, lover of humans (“Hewwo”), inveterate thief of precious objects. Realizing that there were many parrots in need of new homes, I eventually founded a sanctuary for them.

Dr. Lorin Lindner’s Birds of a Feather

Meanwhile, I began to meet homeless veterans on the streets of Los Angeles. Before long I was a full time advocate for these former service members, who were often suffering from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and finding it hard to navigate the large VA Healthcare System. Ultimately, I created a program for them too.

Eventually the two parts of my life came together when I founded Serenity Park, a unique sanctuary on the grounds of the Greater Los Angeles Veterans Administration Healthcare Center. I had noticed that the veterans I treated as a clinical psychologist and the parrots I had taken in as a rescuer quickly formed bonds. Men and women who had been silent in therapy would share their stories and their feelings more easily with animals. Now wounded warriors and wounded parrots find a path of healing together.

My new book, Birds of a Feather, is ultimately a love story between veterans and the birds they nurse back to health. Birds of a Feather is due to be released May 15, 2018 from St. Martin’s Press.


A Promise Is Made

On Christmas Eve in 1987, a bird’s screams echoed through the canyons of the Beverly Hills neighborhood of Trousdale Estates. The sound was a high-pitched, warbling wail, like a woman in agony, and it went on for hours. In the bird’s native land, 8,200 miles away, the cry would enable wild parrots to alert each other through dense rainforest to predators circling in the sky or crouching in the trees. In Trousdale Estates, a neighborhood full of multi-million-dollar homes carefully arranged on the hillsides, the sound reverberated through the otherwise peaceful and empty streets. This was the kind of place where celebrities and millionaires enjoyed the views of Los Angeles from their private pools, not where wild animals screamed for hours.

Neighbors called the police and animal rescue groups.

Animal Control contacted a friend of mine who worked with one of the animal rescue groups. She said she needed to find a foster home quickly, and she knew I loved birds.

“Do you think you can take in a parrot?” she asked. “If we don’t move right away, Animal Control will take it. We need help tonight.”

I was in the middle of studying for the Psychology Licensing Exam. Our professors warned us not to take on any additional responsibilities, and they told dire stories about low pass rates. This wasn’t the time for weddings, pregnancies, or new jobs. It was Christmas Eve, though. Everyone else was going to take a break. I could help, I thought.

“I’ll keep it until we can find it a good home,” I said.

When we arrived that evening, Animal Control officers escorted us into the mansion. It was for sale, unfurnished, and our footsteps echoed through the empty rooms. The house spread out from an airy central atrium. The walls were painted a light peach, and tall potted palms decorated the space. In a cage at the center of the atrium was a single Moluccan cockatoo. Nearly two feet long, she had pink feathers, and when she raised her crest, it was a rich salmon color. Her colors complemented the cool pastels and whites of the home. The owners thought the bird’s beauty would help them sell the house quickly.

For the bird, there was nothing beautiful about the space. There were no toys, no mirror or bell, nothing to stimulate and entertain her. No fruit or vegetables to pique her interest. No voices, bird or human, to comfort her. She was utterly alone. Her droppings had piled up like a pyramid to perch level.

Her cage had several locks, and she’d managed to open most of them. She couldn’t get out, but I could see there was an intelligent mind trapped in that cage.

My heart quickened when I saw the seed bowl full of empty hulls. I examined her keel, the breastbone that typically gets fattened up in chickens, and saw the sharp bone protruding from her chest. She didn’t have an ounce of fat. When Animal Control contacted the owners, they claimed they were sending their chauffeur about once a week to replenish her seed bowl. It is tragically easy to starve a parrot to death, because they eat only the insides of seeds, leaving the nutritionally valueless hulls behind. To the untrained eye, such as that of a chauffeur hired to drive a car, it can appear as though the seed bowl is still full when only empty hulls remain.

I’d seen people make this mistake before with parrots. One woman told me she had asked her children to feed her bird while she was away. She called daily to remind them to check his food. “Don’t worry. His bowl is full!” the children told her. That bird died an appalling death, even with people to care for him. Now I was seeing another animal who had been abandoned and starved, even while surrounded by vast wealth.

I looked from her keel to her eyes. There was fear there; she didn’t understand that we were there to help. There was also hope. Maybe, at last, someone had come to keep her company and rescue her. Mostly, though, I saw pain. I felt as if I were looking directly into a tortured soul. Those eyes seemed to be crying out to me.

I can’t explain it. I felt an immediate bond with this bird. I knew then that this rescue was going to take more than a few hours.

“I promise,” I said, “to find you a good home. I promise to make you happy.”

But what makes a parrot happy? Far too few pet owners know the answer to that question. Owning a bird is seductive, but people often don’t consider the difficulties of keeping an exotic animal. They want to care for and love a beautiful creature, but unless they understand the commitment involved, they can end up doing more harm than good. I knew the damage humans could inflict, but still, I could relate to wanting a bird. I always enjoyed being in their presence, but I had vowed years ago not to be a part of the animal trade. Here, though, was an animal not in a pet shop but left alone in a house for sale, because she complemented the decor. Here was an animal who needed me.

I realized I needed to learn what it would take to do right by this bird. She had never asked to be brought to this hemisphere, this continent. She had not asked to be isolated in a human world. I promised her she would have a permanent home.

I took her in. I gave her a human name, Sammy, short for Salmon, in honor of her beautiful salmon-colored crest. I had to learn how to provide the care she needed. And what I discovered ended up helping many others, parrot and human alike. Though I had no way of knowing it at the time, Sammy would lead me to a career of helping veterans find their way to healing. She wouldn’t be a distraction from my Psychology Licensing Exam; she would utterly change my views about my profession. And, perhaps most of all, Sammy would help me find my way to a life of love and service.

* * *

I wanted to understand where this bird had come from. I felt that if I knew her history, I’d know better how to care for her now. So I researched Sammy’s roots. I wasn’t there when Sammy was a baby, but I can imagine her early life because it’s the story of millions of birds wrenched from their homes in the wild.

With a likely birth year of 1977, based on the date of her importation, Sammy was wild-caught as a fledgling in the Moluccas, a mountainous Indonesian archipelago made up of over a thousand islands.

When hunters take parrots from the wild, the first step is often securing a fledgling to a tree branch, either with rope or, to make the cries even louder, with nails. The tiny bird’s distress call can be heard for miles around, drawing in her flockmates. The hunters count on the flock gathering together in one place, making the parrots easier to capture.

Hunters and poachers commonly cut down trees with nests, blighting the forest.

Over 50 percent of birds caught in the wild will die during either their capture or transport to market. Dead birds are an acceptable cost of doing business.

As in many exchanges between the West and the developing world, wealthy countries benefit far more from the trade than poor ones. Local areas suffer deforestation and loss of native species. A small fraction of the money made from the trade goes to the locals; most ends up in the hands of westerners. Once the trees and wildlife are gone, the locals no longer have a source of income….

The captured birds are kept in tiny cages in the marketplaces of cities such as Ambon and Jakarta. Conditions vary, but it’s not unusual for the birds to be left in unshaded boxes without food or water. The cages are rarely cleaned, leading to the spread of disease among birds already weakened by the rigors of capture and transport.
To keep the birds quiet during shipment—typically to the United States and Europe—smugglers use drugs and/or restraints….Crammed into poorly ventilated suitcases or stuffed into pipes to keep them hidden, innumerable birds die during shipment. They succumb to heat, crowding, hunger, and lack of air. They also die from the vodka forced down their throats to keep them sedated or from the curare intended to keep them immobile….Locals were aware of the effects of habitat loss and deforestation, and they often thought they’d be helping the birds by sending them away.

One great hope for the future of wild birds is that these very same poachers, those people who are trying to make a living to support their families, are now being taught how to use their skills to create an ecotourism industry in their native lands. Former poachers are now becoming experts on parrot behavior. Organizations like the Indonesian Parrot Project, Wild Planet Adventures, and the World Parrot Trust are helping local people build an economy based on protecting their native wildlife instead of capturing and selling it. Now, instead of climbing trees to poach parrot nests, native people are climbing them to build blinds and pulley systems to hoist tourists high into the tree canopy to see the species endemic to those areas. Maybe such a program could have saved Sammy.

Of the 30 to 60 million parrots in captivity (no one knows the exact number), very few find their way to a forever home. I have met many dedicated, loving people capable of providing a comfortable life for the parrots in their care. They number in the hundreds, and I’m certain there are thousands more, but are there millions? Untrained bird owners usually mean well, but many aren’t prepared for the work and attention they must devote to their pets. Parrots aren’t domesticated animals, so being neat, tidy, and quiet isn’t in their nature. As flock animals, they need companionship—more companionship than busy families can usually give.

Even if parrots find satisfactory homes, those homes are rarely permanent. Once people discover what owning a parrot entails, they often pass their bird on to another owner. In addition, people’s lives change, and sometimes they may no longer be able to adequately care for their birds, or their birds might outlive them. Longevity is species-dependent, but can be as much as sixty to ninety years in some species, like cockatoos.

We don’t treat other domestic animals in the same way. We would never expect dogs or cats to have ten to twenty homes in their lifetimes. One thing that invariably can bring people to tears—I know I cry when I hear such stories—is when an older dog or cat is dumped at the shelter after living all his life with one family. “He’s making a mess too often in the house now,” the owners say, and the shelter worker nods with coached sympathy. The dog’s eyes are full of dissipating hope and mounting fear as the family retreats to its car. I have worked alongside many of these shelter personnel while doing rescue work, and they have told me they long to cry out, “He is part of your family. What are you thinking?” Tens of thousands of elderly companion animals are destroyed each year at shelters after their humans abandon them.

Unlike those elderly dogs, who usually lose their families only once, parrots, with their long life spans, may experience this wrenching move multiple times. People aren’t as familiar with birds; they just don’t understand them in the same way they understand dogs and cats. After all, we’ve been living with dogs and cats for thousands of years. Many dogs have been bred to be perpetual puppies, needy and loving, with wagging tails. We breed out the assertive, aggressive behaviors as much as possible. Even domestic cats, seemingly more independent, have smaller brains and fewer aggressive behaviors than their wild cousins.

Parrots have agency and act autonomously. Their motivation is to please themselves, not us. Parrots forage for food and discard it on the ground, heedless of carpets and mess. They build elaborate nests (if no other suitable materials are available, they’ll destroy the furniture to do so). They call out and stretch their wings in elaborate courtship rituals. Their behaviors may be fascinating to study, but they’re foreign to us, and often annoy the people the birds live with. When parrots are rehomed, most people don’t cry; they think someone is just passing on a loud, annoying creature.

Sammy was a survivor. She made it through the capture process. She made it through the long journey across the Pacific. She made it through quarantine. If her flock had twenty birds, it’s likely five to seven survived. Whether it was because she was young, had a greater determination to live, or was genetically stronger, somehow, against the odds, she made it. She wouldn’t be so lucky when it came to finding a forever home.


“Dr. Lindner’s book reminds us of the extraordinary ways caring people are helping the men and women who have served our country…and animals along with them.” —Maxine Waters

“Lindner’s book poignantly entwines three narratives: Stories of humans ravaged by their experiences of war, stories of parrots (and later canids) ravaged by maltreatment, and her own story—how she finds a way to help these humans and nonhumans simultaneously and synergistically.” —Irene M. Pepperberg, PhD; Research Associate, Harvard University, author of New York Times bestseller Alex & Me

“An extraordinary story…Dr. Lorin Lindner’s writing radiates with warmth and love for humans and animals alike.” —Jeffrey Moussaieff Masson, Ph.D., The New York Times bestselling author of When Elephants Weep

I wish this book had been available to me when I was first trying to learn the ways of parrots. My life was likewise turned around by the birds, who ended up getting me off the street. Birds of a Feather is both well written and engaging…” —Mark Bittner, author of the New York Times bestseller The Wild Parrots of Telegraph Hill

“This heartfelt book demonstrates that kindness to animals is also good for people, and that caring for others helps to heal ourselves. I greatly admire Dr. Lindner’s work, which helps both people and other animals by encouraging empathy and compassion.” —Gene Baur, cofounder and president of Farm Sanctuary and author of Farm Sanctuary and Living the Farm Sanctuary Life

“Through the tears of sadness, and hope I congratulate Lorin Lindner on her wonderful writing about the Birds of a Feather.—Tippi Hedren, President, The Roar Foundation, The Shambala Preserve

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WORLD NEWS: Seal Hunting, Live Export & Rescue Gone Wrong (4/21/18) Sat, 21 Apr 2018 12:42:33 +0000 Find out why Canada continues to subsidize seal hunting, how some "rescue" groups actually support dog breeding, why the end of Australian live export may soon be in sight, and more in the latest episode of Animal People World News!

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Watch the latest episode of Animal People World News to find out…

  • How South Korea is restricting animal testing to a last resort
  • What a U.S. court ruling means for endangered animals in captivity
  • How some “rescue” tactics actually support dog breeding
  • Why Canada continues to subsidize the hunting of seal pups
  • Why Australia’s live export industry may finally be nearing an end
  • Who is behind the murder of wildlife rangers in the Congo
  • What Hawaii and Samoa are doing to protect marine fish


Research by Kim Rogers Bartlett
Writing & editing by Wolf Gordon Clifton
Presentation by Aubrie Rose Keegan & Wolf Gordon Clifton
Theme music: “Cloudburst” by Sentient Pulse



South Korea has taken a major step toward ending animal testing. The National Assembly has passed an amendment to the country’s chemical evaluation law, requiring both government and private laboratories to prioritize alternative methods of testing new chemicals before resorting to the use of vertebrate animals. It will also ban repeated testing of chemicals whose effects on animals are already known. Animal testing of cosmetic products is already illegal in South Korea as of February 2017.

The new law will hopefully reverse a trend of increasing animal research in South Korea. Three million animals were used in experiments last year, more than three times as many as in 2008. Nine out of ten lab animals were rodents, and a third of all experiments involved suffering without pain relief, according to Korean government figures.

South Korea is not the only country to take recent positive steps for animals in laboratories. On March thirtieth, Japan abolished a federal requirement that all pesticides be tested on dogs. The tests, which involve feeding pesticide to beagles for one year and then dissecting the dogs to examine its effects, were determined to have little value in predicting risks to humans.

In the United States, meanwhile, the Environmental Protection Agency has begun accepting non-animal methods of pesticide testing. The spending bill recently signed by President Trump will defund medical testing on dogs at Veterans Affairs hospitals. A congressional bill to permanently prohibit such tests is currently under review.


A landmark U.S. court ruling strengthens endangered species protections for wild animals held in captivity. On April eleventh, the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled against the owners of Cricket Hollow Animal Park in Iowa, on behalf of tigers and lemurs held at the roadside zoo. The tigers were kept in cages so filthy that four of the cats died of ill health over a two-year period, while the lemurs – naturally social animals – were housed in isolation with no enrichment.

The court ruled that such treatment not only violated animal welfare law, but also constituted “harassment” of endangered animals under the Endangered Species Act, upholding a previous decision in 2016 which the zoo owners had appealed. The Department of Agriculture has revoked the zoo’s license, and the animals are to be moved to other facilities better equipped to care for them.

The case sets an important precedent for prosecution of cruelty or neglect toward endangered animals held in captivity. Says Stephen Wells, director of the Animal Legal Defense Fund, “The Eighth Circuit’s ruling puts roadside zoos, circuses and private owners on notice that they can no longer ignore endangered animals’ unique biological and psychological needs.”

In June 2015, the Fish and Wildlife Service granted endangered species protection to chimpanzees in laboratories, thereby ending invasive research on chimps within the United States.

Unfortunately, the Endangered Species Act is itself in legal peril. Earlier this month, the Trump administration selected Susan Combs, a fierce opponent of the Act, as acting secretary for fish, wildlife and parks. A pending executive order would eliminate protections for species classified as “threatened,” that is at high risk of becoming endangered.


A number of non-profit rescue organizations have been linked to the commercial dog breeding industry, The Washington Post reports. Each year, representatives from a small but significant number of U.S. and Canadian animal groups converge on two dog auctions held in the state of Missouri. There, they bid on dogs supplied by commercial breeders. The purchased dogs are then adopted out in the name of “puppy mill rescue,” while their breeders return home with profits of hundreds or even thousands of dollars per animal.

The practice began with rescuers acquiring surplus or rejected dogs, who would otherwise be abandoned or killed, in exchange for small, nominal payments. Yet the commercial market for rescue dogs has since grown so large that breeders have started deliberately over-breeding to supply it. Some breeders now earn up to forty percent of their income from selling dogs to so-called “rescuers.”

Altogether, the Washington Post calculates that the rescue auction market has supplied two point seven million dollars to breeders since 2009, in payment for five thousand, seven hundred and sixty-one dogs. Meanwhile, hundreds of thousands of dogs without homes are put down in shelters every year. Says Julie Castle of Best Friends Animal Society,

“You can be part of [ending killing in shelters]by adopting your next pet from your local shelter or a legitimate organization… Buying puppies from puppy mill breeders and selling them to the public is not rescue. It’s the pet trade and it needs to be exposed.”


On April ninth, Canada began its annual commercial slaughter of seal pups. Last year, some eighty thousand harp and grey seals were slaughtered off the coast of Newfoundland and Labrador.

Seal hunting is commonly defended as necessary to prevent competition with cod fishermen. However, scientific studies have mostly found that cod are not seals’ preferred prey, and that the fish species’ decline is mostly a result of human overfishing. Many seal hunters are indigenous Inuit, for whom the practice is a traditional livelihood, and whose communities suffer disproportionately from poverty and hunger. The Canadian government subsidizes seal hunting, spending around three times more to support the industry than it brings in from sales of meat and skin each year.

Seal pups are killed between one and three months of age. Regulations require that hunters first shoot seals in order to quote-unquote “stun” them, and then club them over the head to ensure death. According to a 2002 veterinary report published in the Canadian Veterinary Journal, between one tenth and one third of seals remain conscious after the first shot. Most carcasses are abandoned after skinning, with more than ninety percent of meat going to waste.

Earlier this month, India announced that it would ban import of seal products, following the United States, Mexico, Russia, and the European Union in doing so. After Canada, the African nation of Namibia hosts the world’s second largest seal hunt. Over the past ten years, Namibia has exported four hundred thousand skins, and tens of thousands of gallons of oil, from slaughtered Cape fur seals. 


Footage revealing the suffering of sheep exported live out of Australia is making waves among lawmakers and industry leaders. The video, collected by the organization Animals Australia, shows animals aboard a vessel that sailed from Australia to Qatar in August 2017. The tightly packed animals can be seen suffering from heat stroke while caked in their own waste. Twenty four hundred of the sheep died while at sea, including infant lambs born on the ship. Those who reached Qatar alive were documented being beaten and thrown about by slaughter workers leading up to their deaths.

Until now, campaigns by animal activists to end live export have had little success. Last year, Australia exported nearly two million live sheep, as well as close to a million cows, to be slaughtered for meat in countries across the Middle East and Asia. Yet the latest video has sparked mass outrage, including from politicians.

Australia’s ministry of agriculture has launched an investigation of the industry, and Deputy Prime Minister Michael McCormack has called to revoke the licenses of exporters found to have permitted abuse. The Australian Live Exporters Council has announced a number of industry reforms in an effort to regain political support, including appointing veterinarians and independent inspectors to oversee future shipments of animals.

Yet political pressure is mounting to shut down the live export industry for good. Member of Parliament Sussan Ley, herself a former defender of live export, has pledged to introduce a bill that would phase out the trade entirely.

“Having been a farmer for seventeen years, having represented rural Australia and sheep producers, I’ve got to say – if I’m calling time on this industry, I think time is well and truly passed. I am deadly serious. I want to see this live sheep trade permanently cease.”


In the Democratic Republic of Congo’s Virunga National Park, six park staff members were murdered on April ninth. They were attacked by members of one of Congo’s many armed militia groups. Five park rangers and their driver were killed. One ranger survived and has been treated for his injuries.

Virunga National Park has the highest biodiversity in all of Africa. It is home to two species each of gorilla and elephant, the giraffe-like okapi, and birds including the shoebill and barbet. Virunga’s wild animals are threatened by poaching, both for subsistence by local people and to supply the commercial bush meat trade. Militia and rebel groups and the Congolese military all participate in bush meat trafficking, as well as violent crimes against humans.

One hundred and seventy five rangers have now been murdered in Virunga National Park. Across Africa, more than seventy percent of wildlife rangers report facing life-threatening encounters with poachers, but only forty percent have access to proper equipment and amenities to protect themselves.

On April twenty-second, Virunga will compete in the Virgin Money Marathon in London, represented by Angele, one of the park’s first woman rangers. Says Angele:

“I wanted to be a ranger in Virunga so I could help protect the park and its amazing wildlife. I am excited and a bit nervous to travel to London as I have never left the Congo… but at least I don’t have to worry about avoiding the hippos!”


Finally, two Polynesian states have declared safe harbor for marine fish. On April twelfth, the U.S. state of Hawaii’s First Circuit Court declared void all existing permits to capture wild fish for aquariums. Until now, several million fish were captured every year from Hawaiian waters to supply the aquarium industry. The court decision to invalidate current permits still allows Hawaii’s Department of Land and Natural Resources to issue new ones, provided it considers each permit’s environmental impact beforehand. A bill to phase out all capture of wild fish passed the state congress in May 2017, but was vetoed by Governor David Ige.

It is now known that fish are sensitive to pain and distress, and in some cases surprisingly intelligent. Tusk fish and cod can use tools, while groupers and moray eels hunt together using body language to communicate. Yet fish captured for aquariums are treated with little regard for their welfare. For example, when fish are first captured from deep water, they are pierced with needles to deflate their swim bladders, so that they don’t explode in the shallow water of home aquariums.

Meanwhile, the nation of Samoa – not to be confused with American Samoa, a U.S. territory in the same island chain – has declared its waters a shark sanctuary. In March, Prime Minister Tuilaepa announced an end to all commercial fishing, sale, and trade of either sharks or rays. Samoan waters are home to nearly thirty species of these fish, including the blue shark. More than twenty million blue sharks are killed every year for their fins, which are considered a delicacy in East Asian cuisines.

Besides fish, Samoa’s birds are also in need of protection. Hunting of wild pigeons has been illegal since 1993, but remains common, claiming the lives of up to thirty-three thousand birds each year. Victims include the manumea or tooth-billed pigeon, Samoa’s national bird. The manumea is a close relative of the extinct dodo, and is itself perilously close to extinction. A recently launched Care2 petition calls for the Samoan government to protect this so-called “little dodo” by cracking down on pigeon hunting.

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How South African wildlife is helpless against money and influence Sun, 15 Apr 2018 17:39:28 +0000 "Wildlife is merely an economic resource that must be used to transfer wealth from tourists to South Africans. That is South Africa's government policy in a nutshell... In order to respond to this ideology, the animal advocate has to put aside all sentiment and focus on the money, in order to convince African governments that hunting is a wasteful use of land and that rural economies will benefit far more from non-consumptive ecotourism."

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On March 10th, 2018, animal lovers in Cape Town, South Africa got together for a march to protest the ill-treatment of wildlife and other animals in their country. An estimated 400 to 500 people participated.

Firstly, I would like to stress how important it is for activists to raise public awareness of animal cruelty issues. Postings on social media and protest marches are useful tools for this purpose. They are also useful for building up networks of supportive groups. The Global March for Lions in 2014, which involved coordinated protest marches in 62 cities around the world, was particularly effective in that respect.

However, while we are strong on social media, activists often falter when it comes to working at a political and policy level with lawmakers. To illustrate this with two examples, let us examine what the hunting industry was doing around the time that placard-carrying animal lovers were parading around the streets of Cape Town.

Policy capture in Europe

During this time, the Federation of Associations for Hunting and Conservation (FACE) was holding a conference at the European Parliament in Brussels. No expense was spared. High-level officials from African rangeland states were flown into Brussels to attend the meeting, where hunting fanatics mingled with European lawmakers. It is worth reading this brief summary on the FACE website to see just how successful hunting public relations can be when employed at a political and policy level.

The theme of the conference was that European lawmakers should ignore calls for bans on the import of trophies from iconic animals, such as lions and elephants, and let African nations decide for themselves how wonderful hunting is for money and jobs. Naturally there were no voices present representing dissenting views, which could muddy the waters of hunting public relations by pointing out the flaws in their logic.

What about the USA?

While hunting privileges for Europeans were being sewn up nice and tight in Brussels, over the pond in the United States the hunting industry was celebrating the lifting of the ban on the import of lion and elephant trophies by Secretary Zinke, the Trump appointee to head the Department of the Interior. Zinke, a hunting fanatic himself, has appointed an advisory council that would effectively influence, if not control, conservation policy at US Fish and Wildlife Services (USFWS). To see how ‘insanely biased’ in favor of hunting this council is, read the excellent Associated Press report on this subject.

There is also a useful summary by Elly Pepper on the new Council. As Pepper sums up:

“Yup, that means the administration now has a council dedicated exclusively to promoting the killing of more imperiled species, like elephants and lions, for sport. The council’s mandate includes counselling Trump on the economic, conservation, and anti-poaching benefits of trophy hunting, of which there are very few. Sadly, Trump doesn’t want advice on the many drawbacks of trophy hunting.”

When you see how effectively the hunting industry invades and occupies conservation space by working at a political and policy level, you will not be surprised to see why we are losing the fight to save our wildlife from brutal exploitation and from ending up as living targets being bred for hunting on game farms.

We at CACH (Campaign Against Canned Hunting) are often approached by passionate animal lovers who want to assist us in our efforts to obtain a ban on canned lion hunting in South Africa. While we welcome such passion, we find that there is a dire need for keen activists to qualify themselves on this issue. Each activist needs to be trained and to get some personal experience of the issue. Even manning a stand at some event ought to be done by a trained volunteer, because some hunting protagonist will inevitably want to debate the issue, and the volunteers must be able to hold their own in debate.

They must know the pro-hunting arguments and the counter-arguments. They should, if necessary, be able to debate the issue convincingly on radio or TV against well-prepared hunting experts. Does hunting provide jobs and rural income as they claim, or is it a wasteful use of land? What are the facts? What are the statistics? Advocates must know the arguments on both sides.

Upon looking at the hunting industry as if it were a company with a proper balance sheet, we find that the industry is is clever about publishing only alleged profit items while ignoring the losses and claiming assets while ignoring the liabilities. Animal advocates should be able to force hunters to account for the whole balance sheet of the hunting industry, not only a few selected items from the profit account. All of this is very well explained by Julie Lewin in her admirable work at National Institute for Animal Advocacy.

What is official policy on hunting and conservation in South Africa? South Africa’s Minister for Environmental Affairs Edna Molewa summed it up:

“Biodiversity is an economic sector in South Africa that can be tapped into to contribute to radical socio-economic transformation in South Africa. One of the major contributors to wildlife tourism and the South African economy is the hunting industry. Besides contributing to the growth in GDP and creating job opportunities, this sector remains largely untransformed.”

One can easily see that animal welfare concerns about cruelty are excluded from this policy. Wildlife is merely an economic resource that must be used to transfer wealth from tourists to South Africans. That is South Africa’s government policy in a nutshell. In fact, former president Jacob Zuma was (in)famously quoted as stating at a public meeting that “compassion for animals is un-African.”

In order to respond to this ideology, the animal advocate has to put aside all sentiment and focus on the money, in order to convince African governments that hunting is a wasteful use of land and that rural economies will benefit far more from non-consumptive ecotourism.


Until animal activists learn to compete effectively against the hunting industry at a political and policy level, hunting propaganda will continue to be the mainstream narrative in conservation services. We are not winning this battle, people. I have been campaigning for twenty years against a cruel and senseless canned lion industry, only to see it mushroom from about fifteen hundred lions in captivity at the turn of the millennium, to more than 8,000 currently.

Terms of trade are moving against us. At the moment, hunting fits into African politics in a marriage made in hell for the animals. The seething, discontented underclass of an exploding human population will force political imperatives to push out all other considerations, such as conservation. Animal welfare is not even in the game. An increasingly desperate human population will regard animal welfare concerns as not only irrelevant, but positively subversive.

So although time is against us, two priorities are identified. First, to fund and organize professional training for animal advocates, and second, to commission academic studies that show the fallacy of hunting as a beneficial land-use for all but a tiny elite.

Featured image: Lion Pose. Credit: Michael Day used under CC BY-YA 2.0.

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What is the Defending Palestine conference? Sat, 07 Apr 2018 00:23:05 +0000 'Defending Palestine: Liberating the People, the Land, and Animals' will not be a traditional conference. It will focus on the shared struggle for land and liberation for all species in occupied Palestine, May 3 through May 6, 2018.

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We are thrilled to announce Defending Palestine: Liberating the People, the Land, and Animals, a three-day international conference hosted by Palestinian Animal League (PAL) at The Youth Village, in occupied Palestinian territory, from May 3 through May 6, 2018.

This will not be a traditional conference. It will focus on the shared struggle for land and liberation for all species in occupied Palestine.

We at PAL believe in equality and having the basic right for life. Your experience with us will be unique and filled with new beginnings. You will gain newfound memories, develop a strong network with fellow participants, and come away inspired to join this international movement. We will ensure that this conference transcends beyond workshops and talks. It includes tours to three cities that have been essential in developing our work and are important to see when visiting Palestine: Bethlehem, Jericho, and Ramallah.

If you would like to know more or are interested in applying for this critical, unique and unforgettable experience, please check out our website. Our platform is also open to anyone who would like to present, and if you would like to take the opportunity to help sponsor our conference, feel free to contact us at

We hope you will join our cause and experience Palestine and all of its life with us!

Visit the conference website to learn more and register to attend!

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Animals Are Persons Too Fri, 06 Apr 2018 22:52:07 +0000 Animals are not objects without feelings – their feelings are similar to ours. Although you on your own might not be able to stop industries that exploit animals, you can still make changes in your daily life that will help.

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If you are reading this, I assume you are a person who already cares about animals and their wellbeing, who loves them and wants their abuse to stop. Although you on your own might not be able to stop industries that exploit animals, you can still make changes in your daily life that will help.

Animals Who Live With Us

When I adopted my first pets, I thought that there was a huge difference between my relationship with them and my relationship with my friends. Now I understand I was mistaken. The two puppies my parents and I saw by chance in an abandoned house, and the cat who came the next day to eat their food, were the first creatures to make me understand that animals can be very sweet and warm – sometimes sweeter and warmer than human friends. I came to understand that your pet is neither your property nor your slave, but your roommate. I learned that animals love, like, dislike, and are sometimes unhappy just like you. They need partnership just like you. Animals are not objects without feelings – their feelings are similar to ours.

People who abuse animals don’t think about their feelings or their relationships, that someone needs them and they need someone, just like people. You mustn’t support animal abusers, and you mustn’t support industries that abuse them en masse.

Go Vegan

Go vegan to avoid supporting animal abuse. Some people, instead of going vegan, start buying “free range” and “humane” animal products. But free range is a fraud. The only differences, if any, are how tightly the animals are confined and/or the method used to kill them, nothing else. Not the inherent cruelty of raising animals in factories for our food. Most “free range” animals still live in cages and are really unhappy.

Becoming a vegetarian or vegan changes the way you think. You come to see animals from a different point of view, and to hate cruelty toward either animals or humans. A person who sees dead animal bodies hanging in a butcher shop and is disgusted is very, very sure to be shocked if he sees a human body in the same position. But a person who has no problem watching dead animals hanging may be a little less sure. We know from studies that people who work in slaughterhouses are more likely to commit domestic abuse and other violent crimes against people.

Natural carnivores have features like sharp teeth, big mouths, night vision, speed, and short intestines suited for digesting meat. For carnivores dead bodies smell fragrant, but for humans dead bodies stink. Some people claim that we are meant to eat meat because we have canine teeth. Yet the truth is that there are animals who have bigger canine teeth than us, but are vegetarian – like gorillas. And in any case, the fact that we have one characteristic of carnivorous animals doesn’t make us carnivorous, because we don’t have all the others.

Dairy products are another problem. We aren’t meant to consume milk. It harasses our heart and our intestines, as well as harming the animals. I have also learned that cheese is an addictive food.

Animal Experiments

Another problem is the experiments scientists conduct to produce medicines and cosmetic products. These experiments often cause great suffering or death for animals, and have to stop, because sometimes they hurt or even kill people too. This happens because some substances have different effects on humans than on other animals. So something that is not poisonous to an animal in a laboratory may turn out to be poisonous when used by humans.

For the good of animals and people alike, we have to stop supporting animal research. We have to stop buying medicines, let alone makeup or personal products, from companies that do animal experiments.

Donating Love for Strays

Feral and stray animals are a very big problem in many countries. Helping them is essential, and can benefit you as well as the animals. Few things are as satisfying as watching an abused stray animal be made happy. Few things can make you feel more useful.

If you don’t want or unable to start feeding stray animals yourself, either alone or as part of an organization, then you can support a society that takes care of them by adopting an animal, donating money, or helping out in the shelter.

Animal Abuse

Animal abuse is one of the biggest problems animal lovers face, especially while volunteering in an organization. It is so sad to see, or even to think about. And it happens in so many ways: poisoning, circus exploitation, abandonment, neglect to provide food or water, sexual abuse, zoo parks, horse racing, puppy mills, etc. If we want it to stop, we have to work hard, but we can succeed.

First of all, we mustn’t hesitate to report cases of illegal animal abuse. Complaining about cruelty is necessary not only to protect the animals, but also to protect humans, as research has shown that people who abuse animals are more likely to use violence against other people as well.

Secondly, we should be responsible pet owners ourselves, so that we don’t set a bad example or make people dislike our animals by letting them misbehave.


It may not always be easy changing your lifestyle for the good of animals. I’m sure that you have heard many excuses against veganism especially, and that it may be difficult trying to cut out all animal products. But if you try, I am sure you can do it, improving step by step. Once you manage to become vegan, then try to go even further – after research, you may decide to become a raw vegan, for instance.

When it comes to your health, and not supporting experiments on animals, I know that your doctor is the one who is going to tell you what medicine to take. But when you can, try to resort to alternative medicines not tested on animals, so you may reduce the problem. When it comes to non-essentials, there are fortunately many brands of makeup, cleaners, and personal products available that don’t use animal testing.

Animals understand when you love them and will love you too, but if you hate them they won’t hate you back. Animals never hate, and never harm people out of cruelty. So what is our excuse to keep abusing animals? There is none. So do your part, and make the changes that will help to end cruelty against animals and humans alike!

Image courtesy Kim Bartlett / Animal People, Inc.

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WORLD NEWS: Fur Bans, Bison Killing, & Wildlife Trafficking (4/3/18) Tue, 03 Apr 2018 22:57:13 +0000 Find out why the U.K. Parliament is considering a ban on fur sales, why Yellowstone National Park is slaughtering endangered bison, what a landmark court case in Indonesia means for wildlife trafficking, and more in the latest episode of Animal People World News!

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In this episode of Animal People World News, find out…

  • Why the U.K. Parliament is considering a ban on fur sales
  • How Greece’s proposed dog and cat law would hurt animal rescuers
  • Why Yellowstone National Park is slaughtering endangered bison
  • Why Australia continues to promote kangaroo meat despite backlash
  • What a recent court case means for wildlife trafficking in Indonesia
  • How South Korea’s constitution may soon include animal protection


Research by Kim Rogers Bartlett 
Writing & editing by Wolf Gordon Clifton
Presentation by Aubrie Rose Keegan & Wolf Gordon Clifton
Theme music: “Praetor,” courtesy Ross Bugden



The United Kingdom will soon consider banning the sale of fur. Fur farming has been illegal in England, Wales, and Scotland since 2002, but fur products imported from abroad can still be legally sold within the U.K. A formal petition to ban all fur sales has garnered more than one hundred thousand signatures, enough to require a Parliamentary debate on the issue. A number of prominent celebrities have endorsed the petition, including primatologist Jane Goodall and actors Simon Pegg and Joanna Lumley.

Parliament has yet to set a date for formal debate of the issue. In the mean time, the government has issued a statement affirming that current laws regulating the fur industry will remain in place after the U.K. leaves the European Union. The Conservative Party currently in power has in recent months overseen a number of pro-animal reforms, following backlash by voters over its historic support for foxhunting. Such measures include requiring cameras in slaughterhouses starting this May, and banning the use of shock collars and noxious sprays to train dogs.

On March twentieth, San Francisco enacted a ban on fur sales effective January 2019, becoming the largest city in the United States to do so. Norway, once the world’s largest producer of fox fur, announced plans in February to abolish fur farming. Globally, some seventy million animals are raised and killed on fur farms annually, including minks, foxes, raccoons, raccoon dogs, rabbits, and chinchillas. Another ten million animals are trapped from the wild every year.


The Greek government has withdrawn a controversial bill to regulate the treatment of dogs and cats, less than one week after it was first announced. The bill was widely perceived as an attack on people who rescue animals, and provoked massive outcry from animal activists and pet lovers across Greece.

There are several million homeless dogs and cats throughout the country, a problem aggravated by Greece’s financial troubles, which have led many people to abandon their pets on the street. Dog bites are common, as is the use of poison to exterminate strays, highlighting the urgent need for humane population control. The proposed law would have mandated spay and neuter of pets, fining pet keepers who don’t sterilize their animals, and taxing breeders. However, it would also have defined people who feed or care for stray animals as their “owners,” putting private rescuers at risk of prosecution if they try to help dogs or cats without also sterilizing, registering, and bringing them in for annual health checks.

In addition, veterinarians would be forbidden from treating unregistered or unsterilized animals, facing fines of up three thousand euros for doing so. Posting adoption notices to find homes for dogs and cats would also be penalized. Anyone seeking to adopt a pet would have to go through their local animal control agency, making the adoption of Greek dogs and cats by foreigners much more difficult.

A petition protesting the bill gathered more than twenty-six thousand signatures from outraged Greek citizens. On March twenty-seventh, the Ministry of Agricultural Development withdrew the bill from public consultation, just four days after it was first proposed. The legislation will be reviewed, rewritten, and eventually re-introduced for consideration.


In Yellowstone National Park, the slaughter of more than one thousand American bison, popularly known as buffalo, is currently underway. Some seven hundred and fifty buffalo have been rounded up this winter for transport to slaughterhouses, while another two hundred and fifty have been shot by hunters after wandering outside the park’s borders. The government claims that annual culling of buffalo is necessary to protect domestic cows from the disease brucellosis. However, brucellosis originated in European cattle and has never been proven to transmit back from buffalo. According to the Buffalo Field Campaign, the true motive is to benefit cattle ranchers, by preventing bison from competing for grazing lands.

On March sixteenth, two activists were arrested for protesting the buffalo killings. The men, who go by the names Coyote and Wolf, used barrels of concrete to block a road used by trucks to transport buffalo out of the park. They have been charged with trespassing and obstruction, and fined nearly two thousand dollars each. In public statements following their arrest by Park Service law enforcement, Coyote and Wolf state that they were physically brutalized and taunted, with one officer reportedly bragging,

“All these buffalo are going to die today and there is nothing you can do about it.”

Buffalo once roamed all across North America, from the coast of the Arctic Ocean to the Gulf of Mexico, in herds of tens of millions of animals. During the nineteenth century, the species was hunted almost to extinction. Buffalo were killed both for their meat and hides, and as a government tactic to starve Native American tribes into submission. Today, the vast majority of surviving buffalo are raised for meat on commercial farms, with only around five thousand still living wild in Yellowstone National Park.


The U.K. grocery store chain Lidl has announced that it will no longer sell kangaroo meat imported from Australia. Lidl was until now the only retailer still carrying the product, other major chains like Morrison’s and Tesco having already dropped kangaroo meat under pressure from the animal rights group Viva! However, the government of Australia continues to promote kangaroo meat, despite losing one of its largest international markets.

The Australian government sanctions the slaughter and consumption of kangaroos on the grounds that they are overpopulated. Legal guidelines for kangaroo hunting require that the animals be shot in the head, and quickly put out of their misery if not killed on the first try. However, orphaned babies, or joeys, may be bludgeoned to death or decapitated, and in practice are often left to die on their own. Not counting joeys, six point eight million kangaroos are permitted for slaughter in 2018 under government quotas.

Enthusiasts of kangaroo meat argue that it is more ecologically sustainable than farming domestic animals. However, this argument is undercut by the fact that sheep farmers are themselves among the biggest proponents of kangaroo hunting, since kangaroos compete with sheep for grazing and water. There are around seventy million domestic sheep across Australia, compared to forty-five million kangaroos.

Prior to human arrival in Australia, kangaroo populations were controlled by a variety of native predators. These included the lion-like marsupial Thylacoleo and giant lizard Megalania, which were wiped out in prehistoric times, and the Thylacine or Tasmanian wolf, of whom the last known wild individual was shot in 1930. Dingoes, descendants of feral dogs, occupy the same ecological niche as extinct native carnivores and keep kangaroo numbers in check naturally. However, dingoes are themselves classified as pests, and routinely shot or poisoned to keep them from preying on livestock.


A court in Indonesia has sentenced wildlife traffickers to three and a half years each in prison, the toughest punishment ever given for wildlife crime in the country. The two individuals were arrested during a raid last September, conducted by local police and a team from the group International Animal Rescue. Nine slow lorises were rescued during the operation. Although one loris died following rescue, the other eight are alive and currently undergoing rehabilitation.

Wildlife trafficking is a thriving industry within Indonesia, with an estimated annual value of nearly one thousand million U.S. dollars. Protected species like lorises, pangolins, turtles, and rare birds can be bought easily even in major cities, sold alive or dead in open markets alongside common animals like cats, rabbits, monkeys, and civets. Until now, the harshest penalty ever given for the capture or sale of endangered animals was only two years in prison. Says International Animal Rescue of the groundbreaking recent case,

“These convictions serve as a bold statement that horrific animal cruelty such as this will no longer go unpunished.”

Lorises are popular as pets due to their cuteness, but fare poorly in captivity, due to their nocturnal lifestyle and specialized diets as well as the stress of being captured from the wild. They are the only venomous primate, and despite their name slow lorises often travel several kilometers per night hunting for prey. The loris is also known locally as the “little fire face,” due to the way their eyes reflect light at night.


Finally, South Korea is set to consider a constitutional amendment to protect animals. On March twenty-sixth, President Moon Jae-in and Prime Minister Lee Nak-yeon submitted a bill to revise South Korea’s current constitution. Among the proposed changes is a provision to change the legal status of animals, raising them from mere possessions of humans, to a new classification in-between people and property. The amendment would reportedly also establish new national policies on animal welfare, although details have yet to be announced publicly.

The possible inclusion of animals in South Korea’s constitution is heartening. However, it is far from certain whether the amendment will pass, as many of the constitution bill’s other proposed measures have proven controversial, such as decentralizing the economy and lowering the voting age. The National Assembly is currently reviewing the bill, which if approved will go to a national referendum in June.

While the bill’s future is still unknown, its very consideration is the latest in a string of victories for animals in South Korea. Earlier in March, Korea banned the import of endangered animals or their products from abroad. The law specifically forbids import of whales or dolphins slaughtered in Japan’s infamous Taiji hunt. In 2016, the city of Seongnam ended the slaughter of dogs at Moran Market, previously the nation’s largest outlet for dog meat.

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Is transformation in South Africa only possible through a consumptive wildlife economy? Sun, 18 Mar 2018 17:48:41 +0000 A recent South African Parliamentary wildlife colloquium ignored the benefits of non-consumptive wildlife utilisation as ecological sustainability was obscured by the increasing commodification of wildlife resources.

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A recent South African Parliamentary wildlife colloquium ignored the benefits of non-consumptive wildlife utilisation as ecological sustainability was obscured by the increasing commodification of wildlife resources.

In the first week of March 2018, South Africa’s Department of Environmental Affairs (DEA) hosted a public colloquium at Parliament titled “Unlocking the socio-economic potential of South Africa’s biodiversity assets through sustainable use of wildlife resources.” The meeting quickly turned into a rather one-sided pro-consumptive wildlife utilisation discussion.

According to Member of Parlaiment (MP) Mapulane, chairperson of the Portfolio Committee on Environmental Affairs, these public DEA colloquiums were created “as a platform for all contending views to be expressed and to engage in Parliament without taking one particular side.” However, it was very clear from the outset that the focus of this wildlife economy colloquium was on consumptive wildlife utilisation.

No NGOs or stakeholders were given a panel discussion session at the colloquium to present an alternative view. Michele Pickover, Director of the wild animal protection organisation EMS Foundation, voiced her concern that the “ethical and non-consumptive side of the discussion was completely silenced in the context of this colloquium. The discussion had mostly been about money and not conservation.”

Shonisani Munzhedzi, Deputy Director-General of Biodiversity and Conservation of DEA, defined the wildlife economy as a driver of rural development and prosperity through the sustainable use of wildlife assets, the socio-economic benefits of ecotourism, co-managed conservation areas, and use of related ancillary resources for secondary products that are consumed and traded domestically and internationally.

He stated that the current wildlife sector consists of three sub-sectors, wildlife ranching (breeding and live sale), wildlife activities (wildlife viewing, trophy hunting and biltong hunting), and wildlife products (game meat processing, skin and hide production and other products such as curio and decorations).

The sustainable non-consumptive wildlife economy, which has a proven track record of bringing sustainable livelihoods to rural communities, especially to those living in close proximity of protected areas, for example through eco-tourism activities and nature conservation, was sadly disregarded.

The focus of the only presentation that was supposed to shed light on the value of non-consumptive use of wildlife was changed at the last minute to what can only be described as a sales pitch by the Wildlife Biological Resources and Training Centre of Tshwane University of Technology.

Pickover also raised her concern on how “sustainable use” was being interpreted by the DEA, as a term that is highly debated and contested.

Munzhedi indicated that 18.7 million hectares (15.3%) of South Africa’s total land surface, often marginal land, is already occupied by wildlife ranching with significant potential for growth.

Xola Mkefe, Deputy Director-General of the DEA, said the aspiration of the Department was to promote an inclusive, sustainable and responsive wildlife economy that grows at 10% a year until at least 2030, while providing a foundation for social well-being and maintaining an ecological resource base. In terms of transformation, the aim of the sector is for 30% of wildlife businesses to be owned by previously disadvantaged individuals, and its sustainability goal is for 5 million hectares of non-protected areas to contribute towards the Aichi Conservation Target.

Subsequently, SANParks, Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries, Wildlife Ranching South Africa, SA Hunters and Game Conservation Association South Africa, Exotic Leather Cluster of South Africa, Black Business Council, and Matsila Community Development Trust were all given the podium to present at the colloquium.

Dr Harriet Davies-Mostert, Head of Conservation of the Endangered Wildlife Trust, stated “we recognise the critical importance of unlocking opportunities for job creation and poverty alleviation in South Africa and we believe that the wildlife economy has great potential to do this. We welcome the opportunity to engage with Parliament on this important matter.”

“We do, however, remain concerned that the principles of ecological sustainability have been obscured by the increasing commodification of our wildlife resources, as illustrated by several presentations delivered during the colloquium”, she continues. “It is our view that intensive wildlife production systems should not be evaluated solely on their socio-economic returns but should also demonstrate a net conservation benefit – thereby enhancing the persistence of wild, functioning wildlife populations.”

“We would welcome an opportunity to engage further with government and other role-players to define what we mean by the responsible and sustainable use of our country’s wildlife,” says Dr Davies-Mostert.

These concerns were echoed by other representatives from conservation and wildlife NGOs, who also felt the need for another colloquium to present an alternative perspective on economic transformation through eco-tourism and ethical conservation.

The Minister of Environmental Affairs Edna Molewa was in attendance, as were seven Portfolio Committee members representing the Democratic Alliance, African National Congress and Economic Freedom Fighters, and a range of public stakeholders.

Featured Image: Riverside reflection. Credit: Michael Lorentz, used under CC BY-YA 2.0.

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Duke University study finds elephant declines imperil 96 percent of Central Africa’s forests Sat, 17 Mar 2018 16:41:49 +0000 A study by John Paulson and colleagues at Duke University found that elephants play an important role in Central Africa's forests by dispersing seeds and nutrients and trampling foliage. A reduction in elephant populations would leave 96% of Central African forests susceptible to drastic change.

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DURHAM, N.C. – Poaching and habitat loss have reduced forest elephant populations in Central Africa by 63 percent since 2001. This widespread killing poses dire consequences not only for the species itself but also for the region’s forests, a new Duke University study finds.

“Without intervention to stop poaching, as much as 96 percent of Central Africa’s forests will undergo major changes in tree-species composition and structure as local populations of elephants are extirpated and surviving populations are crowded into ever-smaller forest remnants,” said John Poulsen, assistant professor of tropical ecology at Duke’s Nicholas School of the Environment.

These changes will occur because elephants are ecological engineers that help create and maintain forest habitat by dispersing seeds, recycling and spreading nutrients, and clearing understories, Poulsen explained.

“Because they are very large animals, they can eat fruits and disperse seeds too big for other animals to digest. And because they are highly mobile, they help disperse these seeds far and wide through their dung,” he said.

In the elephants’ absence, scores of tree species may be left without a means of long-distance seed dispersal, which is essential for forest structure and colonization. Trees whose seeds are dispersed by smaller animals could fill the void, dramatically altering forest composition.

Fewer elephants will also mean a more limited distribution of the nutrients contained in their dung.

“Many of Central Africa’s forests are nitrogen limited. Elephants help compensate by moving nutrients, especially nitrogen, across the landscape as they defecate. If populations continue to shrink, this nitrogen will be concentrated in smaller and smaller areas, limiting future tree growth elsewhere,” Poulsen said.

Understory density will also be affected.

“Elephants have a large effect on forests by eating or trampling slow-growing plants and opening the understory, allowing more light in and reducing competition for water and nutrients,” Poulsen said. “These changes alter the recruitment regimes of tree species – favoring some and not others.”

He and his colleagues published their peer-reviewed study March 1 in the journal Conservation Biology.

To conduct their analysis, they reviewed 158 previous studies on forest elephant behaviors and their cascading ecological impacts. By cross-referencing these impacts with data on local elephant populations, forest tree-species composition and structure, nutrient availability, and understory growth in existing Central African forests – both protected and unprotected ones alike – Poulsen and his team determined that up to 96 percent of all forests in the region were susceptible to dramatic changes if elephant populations shrank or disappeared.

“Stopping poaching is an urgently needed first step to mitigating these effects,” he said, “but it will not be easy. Long-term conservation will require land-use planning that incorporates elephant habitat into forested landscapes that are being rapidly transformed by industrial agriculture and logging.”

Coauthors of the new paper are recent Duke Ph.D. graduate Cooper Rosin; current doctoral students Amelia Meier and Chase Nunez; undergraduate Jennifer Callejas; Master of Environmental Management graduates Emily Mills, Emily Blanchard, Sarah Moore and Mark Sowers; and former postdoc Sally E. Koerner, now on the faculty at the University of North Carolina Greensboro.

Funding came from the Duke University Center for International and Global Studies and the Africa Initiative at Duke.

CITATION: “Ecological Consequences of Forest Elephant Declines for Afrotropical Forests,” John R. Poulsen, Cooper Rosin, Amelia Meier, Emily Mills, Chase Nunez, Sally E. Koerner, Emily Blanchard, Jennifer Callejas, Sarah Moore and Mark Sowers. Conservation Biology, March 1, 2018. DOI: 10.1111/cobi.13035

Featured Image: Forest elephant family. Credit: U.S. Fish & Wildlife Services, used under CC BY-SA 2.0.

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Asia For Animals Coalition responds to cigarette-smoking orangutan at Indonesia’s Bandung Zoo Sat, 17 Mar 2018 16:10:06 +0000 Asia For Animal Coalition's open letter to Indonesia's Minister of Environment & Forestry calls for captive animal welfare reform at Badung Zoo, including ending cigarette smoking by orangutans.

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Letter addressed to:

Her Excellence Siti Nurbaya Bakar
Minister of Environment & Forestry
Ministry of Environment & Forestry Republic of Indonesia
Gedung Manggala Wanabakti Blok I Lt. 3
Jalan Gatot Subroto – Senayan
Jakarta 10270

March 2018

Your Excellence,

We are writing on behalf of the Asia for Animals Coalition, representing international animal welfare and conservation organisations. We express our deep concern with regards to the publication of footage showing an orangutan at Bandung Zoo smoking a cigarette.

Smoking cigarettes is universally recognised as a serious health hazard. Allowing an orangutan to smoke is both detrimental to their health and promotes an inappropriate message to the public.

A government designated conservation agency, such as Bandung Zoo, must act as a centre for both conservation and public education. To inspire the public to care about the plight of endangered species such as orangutans, these animals should be seen in naturalistic environments, with opportunities for them to display their natural behaviours.

Providing orangutans with cigarettes, and/or allowing visitors to give cigarettes to the orangutans, conveys a message of animal use purely for entertainment and does nothing to promote respect and empathy for this species. Visitors are neither educated on the nature or behaviour of orangutans, nor of the need to protect and care for them and their wild counterparts.

It also presents a negative image of Indonesia within the international media and damages the international reputation of Bandung City.

We also respectfully remind you of our letter of January 2017, with regards to the poor welfare of the sun bears at Bandung Zoo. We acknowledge changes have been made to the enclosures, but we urge the government to support the zoo to provide a complete re-design of the sun bear enclosures to improve their welfare.

The management of both the bears and the orangutan presents a risk to the animals’ health and welfare and appears to be in contravention to Article 29, para g1; Article 29, para f2, and Article 30, para f3, of The Regulation of the Minister of Forestry of the Republic of Indonesia Number: P.31/Menhut-II/2012 on Conservation Agencies.

We request the government provide further support to Bandung zoo to ensure that the staff are instructed to control this negative visitor behaviour and thus prevent visitors from giving any animals cigarettes in the future, and to establish a programme of environmental enrichment, and to work with the zoo to further modify the enclosures for animals such as the sun bears so it is capable of meeting the physical and behavioural needs of these bears in the long term.

With mounting awareness of, and concern for, the welfare of animals in captivity in Indonesia, we urge you to take urgent action to rectify these situations and help the zoo meet the needs of the animals as soon as possible.

We seek your kind attention to address these issues, and we offer our support.

Sent on behalf of the following organisations:
1. Animal Guardians
2. Animal People
3. Animals Asia Foundation
5. Blue Cross of India
6. Born Free Foundation
7. Change for Animals Foundation
8. Federation of Indian Animal Protection Organisations
9. Help Animals India
10. Humane Society International
11. International Fund for Animal Welfare
12. Jane Goodall Institute Nepal
13. Philippine Animal Welfare Society
14. Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, Hong Kong
15. Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, Sarawak, Malaysia
16. World Animal Protection

Featured image: Orangutan at UK’s Chester Zoo. Credit Nigel Swales, used under CC BY-SA 2.0

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